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Liverpool Sound City 2014 Interview: Model Aeroplanes

 
By on Tuesday, 6th May 2014 at 11:00 am
 

Last Friday at this year’s edition of Liverpool Sound City, I met up with Dundee lads Model Aeroplanes who stopped in town to do a show at the club Heebie Jeebies that night. Listen below to my chat with Ben Buist (bass), Grant Irvine (lead guitar), Kieran Smith (drums) and Rory Fleming-Stewart (lead vocals, guitar) as we talk about growing up in Dundee, the industry around them, their latest single ‘Electricity’ (stream it under the interview) and what’s up next for them (turns out I caught them right before they filmed their first-ever music video!).

Thanks very much to the band for their time, and Paul for setting this interview out in Liverpool for me.

 

Preview: Liverpool Sound City 2014

 
By on Wednesday, 12th March 2014 at 9:00 am
 

TGTF loves the North – we love Steven Gerrard, we love The Beatles, we love Alan Shearer, we love The Stone Rosess, we bloody love things with gravy on, we even are rather partial to a parmo (it’s covered in cheese and very Northern), so of course, we love Liverpool Sound City. Which, I suppose, means if The Great Escape is the UK’s SXSW, Sound City is the North’s Great Escape. Their mantra? Championing the best breakthrough acts of the year across a variety of intimate and stirring venues, including the strikingly beautiful cathedral, which last year hosted an emotive set by Noah and the Whale, and The Kazimier Gardens, where the festival’s Korean showcase last year was an exciting centrepiece. So, who’s on the bill this year?

They’re probably sick of being known as the band with “that really cute video, which makes me feel sad, then happy, because the man’s face is a bit weird, and Fearne Cotton of the radio mentioned it a lot”. But Kodaline (pictured at top) have in the last year and a half established themselves as an extremely credible Irish alternative to your early 21st century Coldplay – perhaps with a little more sense of adventure – but in essence, the vibes are very similar. They’ll be the star attraction on Saturday the 3rd of May, without a doubt, seeing as they managed to pack a tent at Reading last year. Sound City should be a great chance to get up close and familiar with this group of future stars.

BBC Sound of 2014’s Jungle should be an interesting concept on the Saturday: interesting and a bit peculiar for the fact they aren’t particularly partial to people seeing them on stage, so they usually perform behind a shroud of mist. Barring the shyness, they’re an experimental duo called T and J and their music has mainly been promoted through the extreme viral draw of their first two videos. With the prospect of a live show, the mystery makes them surely an unmissable prospect. Or perhaps a very missable prospect? Who the fuck knows? Just grab a picture if you do…

Stoner-rockers Drenge are performing on the Friday and look an attention-grabbing prospect for mid-festival viewing. They grabbed a lot of hype, perhaps not ‘Vintage Trouble’ levels when they appeared on Jools Holland last year; it was obvious their energy, combined with their raw, rugged riffs would win them some admirers. This is the kind of festival a band like Drenge are made for, and in a close-up and personal venue, expect this double act to incite some carnage.

Last year Findlay grabbed the attention of our very own Martin Sharman and fought her way to the top of our 10 for 2014 poll; now she’s back on the Friday of Sound City. Empowered women of the world, get ready to meet your new champion. Raw, unrelenting and with a siren-like voice that’ll have any warm blooded male ensnared, she is a welcome addition to the line-up.

That’s just a small cross-section of what will be a freaking ace 3 days of new music and if I didn’t whet your appetite yet, you can also look forward to a bit of London based four-piece LSA, dirty rockers Lola Colt or indie-electro-pop trio We Were Evergreen. Liverpool Sound City 2014 has something for everyone and is easily the best route to go down, if you want to spend your 2015 telling your mates: “I was there when they were playing to 50 people in a bar in Liverpool – I was there first”.

For much more about Liverpool Sound City including how to book delegate or punter tickets, visit their official Web site.

 

(Urban 2014 festivals flavoured!) Bands to Watch: Circa Waves, Courtney Barnett, Darlia, Dolomite Minor, Marika Hackman

 
By on Tuesday, 4th February 2014 at 11:00 am
 

As if to celebrate a communal emergence from a very Dry January, this week three of TGTF’s favourite city-based festivals revealed great chunks of lineup. Live at Leeds and Liverpool Sound City take place on the same May bank holiday weekend, although Leeds is really only a one-dayer, whereas Liverpool treats its weary punters to the full 3-day marathon. And southerners don’t miss out either, as a week later the entire PR population of London decamps their beards and designer handbags to Brighton’s The Great Escape. For some, it’s a holiday, for others, well, they’ll need a holiday afterwards. [Having done both Sound City and Great Escape back to back 2 years in a row, I concur with the latter. – Ed.]

Like the artists themselves, for instance. There’s only so many buzz bands to go round of course, but at the time of writing already five hardy acts are lined up to play at all three events. Here we take a quick look at each and try to determine exactly why they’ve been picked to play three big shows in a week.

Liverpool’s Circa Waves (pictured at top) may well have heard the odd Libertines album in their time (and there were one or two odd ones!): the frantically strummed guitars and the big, melodic choruses have just the right amount of familiarity for them to sound like old friends already; the addition of a pronounced Liverpudlian twang in the vocal delivery of ‘Get Away’ adds a welcome point of differentiation from the seminal Londoners. Similarly, ‘Good For Me’ carries more than a hint of The Strokes’ ‘Last Nite’, although forsaking the latter’s bone-dry retro production for a wider, more modern sound. The big question is, are they more than the sum of their parts, or simply destined to follow paths that others first trod over a decade ago? No doubt their live show will provide the answer.

The we come to Melburnian slacker chick Courtney Barnett, famed for her Dylan-esquely-meandering autobiographical ditties. ‘Avant Gardener’, in its baggy groove and surreal, stream-of-consciousness take on a medical emergency, sounds nothing less than if Shaun Ryder had happened to be an Australian woman and was produced by Beck. Stranger things have happened. But there’s more than just a swaying rhythm and a clever turn of phrase to this antipodean artisan: her debut collection ‘A Sea Of Split Peas’ displays an enviable depth and maturity: being no stranger to a 5-minute epic, something like ‘Anonymous Club’ showcases Barnett’s ability to turn down the tempo and bring out a more circumspect, even sombre, mood, all led by her gently vulnerable voice. Truly a talent deserving of a wider audience – and these three gigs will provide that.

If you spend your nights lying awake trying to decide which flavour of rock you like better – the big, heavy, riffy version with screamed vocals, or the more jangly, melodic stuff with at least vaguely recognisable lyrics, then I’m pleased to say you can sleep easier from now on – Darlia from Blackpool have locked both styles in a negotiating room, not letting them emerge until they agreed on some sort of uneasy musical truce. Despite its portentous title, ‘Napalm’ even goes a bit garage-rock in the middle eight, before the Metal Zone pedal is stamped on again and the riffage re-emerges. It’s doubtful that this is a tribute to Napalm Death, who in comparison make this lot sound like a nursery singalong, but it powers along nicely in its own punk-pop-metal way. There are hints of Green Day here, although Darlia come nowhere close to knocking out the sort of world-class melodies that Billie Joe and Co lose down the back of the sofa. Indeed, on occasion, such as on recent single ‘Queen Of Hearts’ from the Knock Knock EP, the light/heavy contrasts don’t sit easily together at all. Much as there’s no demand for a lemon meringue pork pie, I wonder whether metalheads might dismiss Darlia as too lightweight to admit to liking, whilst the riffs might scare off the mainstream audience that bought so many copies of ‘American Idiot’. Time will tell.

Dolomite Minor also do heavy, but theirs is the weight of a fuzzbox, lashings of spring reverb, a repetitive, loping groove, and handfuls of late-60s/early-70s proto-hard rock attitude. There’s a touch of psychedelia too, but they don’t venture far enough away from their riffs to really earn the epithet. And what they carry in musical weight they absolutely drop down the toilet in terms of lyrical sophistication. From ‘Let Me Go’: “The sun goes up / the sun comes down / everyone goes out on the town”, and ‘Microphone’: “Go get her a microphone / all she needs is a gramophone”. There’s a lot of “Spoon on the Moon in June” going on here. With a tune. To be fair to them, fancy-pants lyrics are not the point here: a fey singer-songwriter might have a bunch of clever words, but do they have an industrial revolution guitar riff and drums than could kill a pigeon? No. They’re from Southampton, and so are Band Of Skulls, and they play a Gretsch guitar, and so do Band Of Skulls, which are of course just a couple of big coincidences and in no way has one influenced the other. No sirree. Nevertheless, as the latest in a long line of two-piece teenage riffmeisters, nobody could accuse Dolomite Minor of poor timing. There must be a lot of unemployed bassists out there.

And so we come to Marika Hackman, who has featured in TGTF a number of times before; the Brighton-based singer-songwriter and sometime model knocks out pieces of delicate fragility and open-hearted honesty, sometimes bordering on gruesome realmusik (see ‘Cannibal’ from 2013’s ‘That Iron Taste’ mini-album). Mary caught the end of her very popular show at The Great Escape last year, a very sparse affair with Hackman accompanied by just her acoustic guitar. Let’s hope she’s expanded her live palette somewhat this year: a good part of the joy held within her recorded material are the entirely self-played arrangements – ramshackle at times – that add depth and groove to the idiosyncratic song structures.

There we have it – five artists “doing the triple” of urban festivals this May. There will be more lineup announcements between now and then, and if any more acts end up playing all three festivals, we’ll feature those too – but what more incentive could you need?

 

Wolf Alice / May 2014 UK Tour

 
By on Tuesday, 4th February 2014 at 9:00 am
 

London quartet Wolf Alice have just announced a May 2014 tour of the UK, to follow their appearance at SXSW 2014 in March. Tour dates include festival appearances at Liverpool Sound City, Live at Leeds, and Stockton’s Sunday Live the first May bank holiday, as well as the band’s largest headline show to date at London Scala on the 28th of May. Wolf Alice will be joined by Superfood on all dates except on 12th of May. Tickets will go on sale Wednesday the 5th February at 9 AM.

The band’s EP ‘Blush’ is out now on Chess Club Records. Check out the video for the song of the same title below the tour date listing.

Thursday 1st May 2014 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Friday 2nd May 2014 – Liverpool Sound City
Saturday 3rd May 2014 – Live at Leeds
Sunday 4th May 2014 – Stockton Sunday Live
Monday 5th May 2014 – Hull Fruit
Tuesday 6th May 2014 – Sheffield Leadmill 2
Wednesday 7th May 2014 – Newcastle Think Tank
Thursday 8th May 2014 – York Duchess
Monday 12th May 2014 – Birmingham Temple
Tuesday 13th May 2014 – Oxford Academy 2
Wednesday 14th May 2014 – Cambridge Portland Arms
Thursday 15th May 2014 – Bedford Esquires
Friday 16th May 2014 – Guildford Boileroom
Saturday 17th May 2014 – Leicester Cookie Jar
Sunday 18th May 2014 – Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
Tuesday 20th May 2014 – Brighton Haunt
Wednesday 21st May 2014 – Preston 53 Degrees
Thursday 22nd May 2014 – Stoke Sugarmill
Tuesday 27th May 2014 – Milton Keynes Craufurd Arms
Wednesday 28th May 2014 – London Scala

[youtube]http://youtu.be/O_QBC_pDkeU[/youtube]

 

Liverpool Sound City 2013 Interview: Chris Hawkins (Part 2)

 
By on Wednesday, 29th May 2013 at 11:00 am
 

Didn’t catch the first part of my interview in Liverpool with 6music’s Chris Hawkins? No worries, you can read it here.

6music’s Chris Hawkins is quick to give thanks to the many people who listen to his 6music show online: “We have a strong and I’m very happy to say very loyal online audience. From Australia and the States too. That’s quite cool, it adds another dimension to the programme.” I explain that if there was a way I could get 6music on my car radio, I would, but for now, I’m limited to listening to the station on my computer, to which he laughs.

He understands this. “Oh, the messages we get all the time from American listeners, ‘thank god for 6music because we have nothing like that here, everything here is Clear Channel owned and samey’. I feel very lucky to work at 6music, sometimes I have to pinch myself and think, ‘I can’t believe I’m working at the radio station that I would choose to listen to’. You know, it’s a great privilege, and it’s as great to work there as you would hope or expect it to be, which I don’t think is always the case. But behind the scenes, it’s as good as it is with what you hear out of those speakers. And as I say, the online audience adds that weird dimension of a morning programme, because of course it’s often nighttime for some, or the middle of the night for people who can’t sleep, or it’s drivetime in Hong Kong, for example. That turns it (the show) absolutely on its head!”

A topic that came up during the radio plugging session was how 6music was successfully saved from the BBC’s axe not just by the presenters’ own intervention but the actions of their loyal listeners. I asked Chris from his perspective what it felt like when all of this was going down. “There’s sort of a point of mixed emotions, because the threat to the radio station was a threat to something that I and my colleagues that worked at 6music loved. Everyone that works at 6music is incredibly, ridiculously passionate about the radio station. So that first and foremost was the priority, to work with the listeners as much as possible to save this amazing radio station.

“But then of course it’s your livelihood as well, another important factor, with your family and living. It was an incredibly hard and dark time. But then this amazing listener reaction, revolt and rebellion, it’s like a fairy tale. And the ending, well, it has been a fairy-tale ending. Two years down the line, and audience figures are fantastic, I think the station sounds better than it ever has done, and it’s got great health for the future.”

Chris believes there is a huge consequence on bands specifically of having 6music’s operations no longer solely based around London: “Now that 40% of the station (programmes) is done outside of London, I think it’s a really positive message that the BBC is sending out, that there’s a world outside of London, there are gigs outside of London, that bands don’t need to move to London to get noticed or get heard. When you physically know that a radio station like 6music has a Manchester base, psychologically for anyone who isn’t trying to forge a music career in London, psychogically it’s great to know that there are producers and DJs based in the North West. I think it’s fantastic.”

I go back to his picks from the earlier session for the acts he believes will be the Next Big Thing. New York punks Parquet Courts, who had an astonishing hype build up around them from this year’s SXSW, are one of them. “Parquet Courts, they are just ridiculous, they do all the things that I said earlier (in the session) not to do. They don’t have a Twitter, you can’t find anything about them on Facebook.” I surmise that maybe it’s part and parcel of wanting to be mysterious, which works for some bands but not all of them. “But there’s a fine line between wanting to be mysterious…they (Parquet Courts) provide just enough information, cleverly on a very DIY Web site, on one page, everything you need to know.

“I absolutely adore Chasing Grace. They’re an amazing duo from London…Hertfordshire. They are an indie, almost rooted in folk band, but they also have this kind of dubstep link that’s getting them airplay on 1Xtra and will get on Radio1 as time goes on. They’ve got a record deal with Island now, they’re young guys, really young, really smart, and what they’re doing is painfully of the now. It’s what could be the next big thing. I think they’re fantastic… It’s brilliantly produced, and brilliantly polished, and the buildup has been just right for them, so they’re just starting to make their way. Very soon everyone will know about them.

“There is also a band signed to Mumford and Sons‘ label Communion, they’re called Bear’s Den.” I stop for a moment and smile, explaining to Chris that I’d met the band’s producer, Kris Harris, lead singer of Isle of Sheppey band Story Books, at this year’s SXSW. When I explain that Story Books were one of my highlights of SXSW and he should have a listen to them, he lights up with the mention of such a connection. “I will do (check them out), I love links like that! Communion seems such a tight-knit community. Bear’s Den, I love them, I look forward to hearing much more from them. I think there’s a lot more to come.” Another pick from Chris is Chelmsford’s Wild Combination, “who are electro, very different from that kind of (folk) sound…punchy, sharp, hard in places, but very, very catchy. I would search them out, if you’re vaguely into anything synth-y and electro-ey.”

And there you have it: a couple of bands recommended personally by the Hawk for you to check out. Really, there wouldn’t have been a better way to end this interview. In the radio plugging session earlier that day that Chris was a panelist on, there was much talk about how bands still can get airplay on radio stations like 6music if they submit demos – either as CDRs clearly labelled with the band and track names or emailed as downloadable links with all the information a presenter might need – and catch the eyes and ears of one of their presenters. It’s not just wishful thinking that happens inside the minds of bands. It does happen. Chris, along with a whole army of presenters across Britain, are dedicated to finding the best new music and making sure it will be heard. I for one will always be indebted to Chris and 6music for changing my life, and I hope his and their mission will continue for generations to come and benefit from.

I’d like to thank Chris very much for his time in Liverpool so we could sort this interview. Cheers!

 

Liverpool Sound City 2013 Interview: Chris Hawkins (Part 1)

 
By on Tuesday, 28th May 2013 at 11:00 am
 

At this year’s conference portion of Liverpool Sound City 2013, there were loads of sessions I was interested in sitting in on, including one with the unusual title of ‘Radio Friendly Unit Shifter’. A strange mouthful of words, but the panel consisted of some very important heavy hitters from the BBC, last.fm, and Xfm and they were going to discuss how bands could get their music proper radio airplay, something that I’ve always felt would be a beneficial real world extension to all the promotion we do of new bands at TGTF. Unfortunately, the timing of the session coincided with another one that both John and I said we probably should attend – one on how to start creative and digital businesses, should we one day decide to go entirely business legit full time with TGTF – and I recall questioning my Twitter following which they thought was better to attend. Who else should reply to my Tweet but BBC 6music’s own Chris Hawkins? Taken aback by a great of the radio station that has changed the way I’ve viewed music in the last 5 years, it was no contest which session I would attend.

I found the discussion itself very intriguing, on how presenters and producers of radio channels view the radio business these days and how despite illegal downloading affecting record label bottom lines and band profits, radio is surviving – and indeed thriving! – when listeners tune into their favourite programmes and put their faith in their beloved presenters. I was very pleased that before I left America, Mr. Hawkins helpfully agreed to a chat with me when we were in Liverpool. I had to wait a while as the masses went up to Chris to say what big fans they were of his, to give him demos in the hopes that he’d listen to them, to ask for advice on how to make it in the radio industry.

Chris Hawkins interviewI felt somewhat awful, dragging him away from a well-deserved drinks with the others in his crew, but he was such an affable chap to speak with in the bar of the Hilton Liverpool, my worries vanished into thin air. 6music, as many of you know, is my audio lifeline to Britain during my working day, and it’s such an important part of my daily life, I really do not know how I would have coped these past couple of years without it. While I was on holiday in Britain for 3 weeks this May, I couldn’t listen to it at all in any sort of regular schedule because my laptop charger broke 4 days into the trip; to say that I felt lost without my beloved 6 is a huge understatement. I was very pleased to be able to speak with Chris about his work, especially considering that he has championed my friends Van Susans and the Crookes in recent times. This was the first time he attended Sound City and he says he’s been convinced, maybe in some small part by me but surely by the strength of the sessions and the industry people who do make it up to Liverpool, that it’s an event he will attend for sure in future years.

I always thought that being the first presenter in the morning must be a difficult task; I know in Washington, if I’m having a bad commute into work, my eyes are shooting poison arrows into the radio console on my dashboard, and not because I’m mad at whoever presenting, it’s just the situation. So I really wanted to know from Chris how he felt presenting so early in the day. “There is no greater relationship with your audience, with your listeners than first thing in the morning, because you’re all very much in it together. The relationship is like being part of the family with your audience. No-one likes getting up at half past 3 in the morning, which is what I have to do. But once I’m at work, in the studio, I’m as excited about doing the show at that time of the day as I would be doing it at any other time of day.

But I think you have to tailor what you do to what your audience is doing. You’re waking up with your audience. I think the iPlayer and Listen Again facilities are great, but I always think morning shows sound very out of context if you’re listening to them in broad daylight, whereas when I’m starting in the morning, it’s dark outside, and over the course of the 2-hour show, people are opening their curtains, getting in the shower, having their breakfast. And that routine doesn’t change much. So we try not to change the show too much, because we want the audience to know where they’re at any given time, as much as they have their routines. So we want to fit in with them, to have them work their mornings to ideally around the songs and junctions we have on the show.”

I also was curious how a Shropshire lad was fitting in up north, now that his show has moved from London to MediaCity in Manchester. “I lived in London for 15 years, having worked in Western House and then previously at Marylebone High Street, which is where GLR, Greater London Radio was, where I’d come down to London to work there, because it was a radio station with the likes of Danny Baker, Chris Evans, Chris Morris had all worked there, a great radio station that still has a very important piece of a lot of people’s hearts. And then, Western House for 10 years? And then MediaCity, which is an incredible BBC development in the North West.

“It’s unbelievable, the show has gone from strength to strength since we’ve moved. It was a great fresh start for me, and it’s great not least there’s a window in the studio, which is actually very unusual. We can actually see outside! It’s not a boxed room, which is very common in radio and you can actually see through a window what is going on in the real world outside your little booth. And it’s been a fantastic year to be based in the North West, you can become very London-centric and end up talking about tubes and things that outside of London have any concept about. The tube is unique to London, and the things you do in London are very different than the way people’s lives are outside of it.”

Check back here on TGTF for the exciting conclusion of my interview with Chris Hawkins, which posts tomorrow.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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